I respect the work that has been done by critical scholars to point out the ways in which people have been created/oppressed by the social/cultural conditions into which they were born.   However, much work in qualitative studies remains focused on how such conditions creates differences in how people see themselves and each other; in a similar way, much work in quantitative studies remains focused on how psychological traits, or psychographics, determine outcomes and differentiate people.   These differences promote unhealthy conceptualizations of individuals upon which our thoughts, feelings and actions toward one another are based.

I believe it should be the work of critical scholars to criticize the focus of research on differences that are based on stereotypical sociodemographics, used basically as a shorthand and simplified means by which to “understand” people, explaining and predicting them.

I believe  that in post-modern contexts, where there is increasing slippage on the definitions of these sociodemograhic and psychographic categories and how people are deterministically placed into such categories, critical scholarship should turn towards finding the commonalities between people without reducing such commonalities to further deterministic languages; that is, moving from the sociodemographic determinism of the history of human civilization and avoiding the physiological determinism of the future of human civilization.

Thus, for such research to proceed, critical scholarship must embrace an interpretive turn.

Communication scholarship is an appropriate and pregnant field of study in which this path of research can be forged. The various branches of communication could apply, applying critical approaches from understanding the communication between people to the role of various media products in the lives of people and the sociocultural environment.

This proposed empirical approach, founded on critical theories to design a methodology that could be qualitative or quantitative, would not be restricted to any particular sociodemographic category; instead, it would be directed at all attempts to construct our understanding of humans based on their differences as preeminent and preexisting actualities rather than conditional, simultaneous and even contingent to their commonalities and the equality.

As a communication scholar — from person to person, group to person, and structure to agent, across time and space and through various communication media — my goal is to engage in research projects devoted to the study of the equality of people that has been overshadowed in our drive to understand their differences.

My proposal for this equality studies is detailed below, and I will strive to conduct and report on to the general populace so that the findings generated by such studies could become part of everyday rhetoric, to hopefully replace the rhetoric of differences that could fundamentally damage our species.

Equality Studies
* is the desire to promote an understanding of the equality of all peoples regardless of applied sociodemographics or psychographics
* understanding that we are all sense-making, cognitive/affective creatures doing our best to balance our own wants/needs with the restrictions and potentials woven into the world around us
* further explicating how age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, religion and any psychographic traits are categories constructed outside of us and into which an individual may be placed by someone or may choose to be placed
* understanding that these sociodemographics and psychographics highlight differences used by Others to generalize what an individual may be/do, but the reification of such differences can further exacerbate these categorizations as “the way things are”
* based on the belief that the exacerbation of differences furthers stereotypes that are harmful for human interaction, from interpersonal to global levels
* requiring a shift away from the continuance and exacerbation of these categorical differences to a need to elaborate commonalities, recognizing that people across categories may be more alike than people within categories
* as such, research in equality studies would be focused on discovering when commonalities occur versus when differences occur between individuals
* based on the belief that uncovering commonalities that exist alongside/despite the sociodemographic differences and educating the public as to these commonalities will provide information on which tolerance can be fostered
* using the basic foundation that “a little education can go a long way” to provide the reasoning for approaching the general public alongside the scholarly community in communicating findings.

3 responses to “Equality Studies: A Call to Action”

  1. johnmbaker Avatar

    I’ve only just come across this, CarrieLynn, but you might be interested to know that we have been doing ‘equality studies’, in a spirit quite similar to the one you express here, for over twenty years in Dublin: http://www.ucd.ie/socialjustice.


  2. CarrieLynn D. Reinhard Avatar
    CarrieLynn D. Reinhard

    Fantastic! I am glad to know that something I had thought was just a throwaway term is something that people have been seriously engaging with for such a long time. I shall investigate more of what your department does.


  3. johnmbaker Avatar

    (forgive me if you already got this:) I have only just come across this post, CarrieLynn, but you might be intrerested to know that we have been doing ‘equality studies’ in a spirit akin to the ideas you’ve posted here, for over twenty years at the Equality Studies Centre in Dublin: http://www.ucd.ie/socialjustice. Best of luck with your aims. John


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